A plot of land beside our house caught the eye of local traders. A reliable source revealed how a truck operator was masterminding a covert bid to usurp the plot. In the cover of darkness, with local support, this operation would be carried out. There was no way to cross-check. We believed it and hired masons to erect a boundary wall as a safety measure.
We did not have the faintest idea that this act would challenge them to demonstrate their collective power. Around midnight, we heard the noise of hammering. When we went out, we saw a group of young boys demolishing the newly erected high wall. We raised an alarm and they started pelting bricks at us, shouting slogans of victory. We were left with no option but to seek help from the police to drive away the intruders from our property.
My elder brother was sceptical of an amicable solution. He understood the situation had already gone beyond control. Whenever and wherever such an encroachment took place in Bengal under the communist regime, there was not a single case where the illegal occupants were evicted. So this was not going to be an exception.
When we entered the police station wearing a hassled look, the officer-in-charge listened to us and promised all possible help. He was charged to arrest the miscreants and ordered his subordinates to get the jeep ready. This was my first trip to the police station and for the first time I was sitting in a police jeep.
Within five minutes, we reached our area. Before the jeep could enter the narrow lane, the mastermind waved at the cop. He stopped the vehicle and went with him to a secluded corner for a chat. When the officer came back, he told us to get down and offered a piece of advice.
As he was briefed that it was a matter involving politicians, the officer fled the scene. The mastermind stared at us for involving cops. Fifteen years have passed since this happened, but those fearsome eyes remain vividly etched in my memory. The words ring in my ears.
“Sit and solve the matter.”
It was clear the cops would do nothing for us. It was just like a scene from any Hindi film.
The expert intruders had already raised a structure with bamboo poles and covered it with tarpaulin sheets. From my window, I saw at sunrise the new structure – with a carom board installed inside and a group of ruffians enjoying the game.
The mastermind took the initiative of arranging a meeting with the local leaders because he was eager for a solution. We knew the outcome would not favour us. But there was no other option available.
We came to know from him that the land had been grabbed for a noble cause. A surprise was therefore in store for us. The unlawful act of forcible occupation was going to lead to something noble and purposeful was difficult to believe.
When a tripartite meeting was convened, it was revealed that the land had been grabbed for building a Shiva temple. Many Shiva devotees wanted a temple here as it was the safest and purest spot they could identify to raise a temple. A free and democratic vote seeking process had been initiated in our locality. And the result was this encroachment bid.
We were there to listen to their decision. The mastermind put forth a strong line of defence. He also applauded our peaceful existence for decades, for maintaining cordial relationships with all. Our good track record made him soften his approach and therefore he gave the proposal of acquiring the land at a nominal rate. He quoted the rate and prepared the papers. We just supplied–size passport photographs and signed on the dotted line within the next few days.
We were told we should continue to live harmoniously forever. By avoiding a legal battle, we had taken the right decision for which my brother was honoured with a warm hug and a marigold garland. I avoided such felicitation. Celebrating defeat and cheering for the loss. When you perform a noble act, you get a huge fan following. Those who were throwing stones at us just a week ago were now cheering for us.
We were hoping Lord Shiva to become our new neighbour. We were invited to Bhoomi pujan. My brother was involved in the elaborate process and he did everything as if the land still belonged to him.
After six months, it became clear that a Shiva temple was not coming up on that plot of land. I asked several people if another God was chosen to reside there. Though the land had been acquired for erecting a temple, the idea of building a temple had been abandoned now.
What came up instead was a beautiful double-storied house. The mastermind came with his coy wife to invite us all for Grihapravesh. He stood with folded hands, seeking forgiveness for all that had happened. Let bygones be bygones and make a fresh beginning. My brother was furious. The way we were taken for a ride was really incredible. A classic example of how people serve their vested interests in the name of God.
I told my brother that he is our new neighbour and all our drains pass that way. Let us not offend him with our silly outburst. He could block our drains and make life hell for us. He got the valid point.
My brother went to attend the function with a heavy heart. There he met the same group of politicians and traders who supported the Shiva devotees in the meeting. The mastermind was grateful to them for their total support. Someone in their group while serving parshad asked my brother if we were planning to leave this place – a subtle query to dig if anything else was up for grabs.